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106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good golly, Molly can really write!!
"When It Happens to You" opens as a tale of a marriage that may be falling apart but doesn't know it yet, told in the form of eight short stories.

The first story tells of a family of three in California--Greta, Phillip and their young daughter Charlotte--that hopes to become a family of four, with the help of fertility experts. Next we'll delve into the...
Published on August 18, 2012 by Sharon Isch

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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great, not terrible.
I bought this book because of all the glowing reviews on Amazon but after reading it, I can't agree. So here is an alternative point of view. The New York Times review characterized the book as "workshop fiction" and I have to agree. I thought Ms Ringwald spent too much time on the internal landscape of her characters, telling us who they were instead of allowing the...
Published on September 24, 2012 by Booklover


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106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good golly, Molly can really write!!, August 18, 2012
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This review is from: When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories (Hardcover)
"When It Happens to You" opens as a tale of a marriage that may be falling apart but doesn't know it yet, told in the form of eight short stories.

The first story tells of a family of three in California--Greta, Phillip and their young daughter Charlotte--that hopes to become a family of four, with the help of fertility experts. Next we'll delve into the relationship of Greta and her mother, who love to interfere in each others' lives but resent reciprocity (We learn Greta and Phillip have split, but Mom does not). Next, we go to the playground with Phillip and Charlotte where we meet her playmate Oliver--who insists he's really an Olivia--and his single mother, Miranda. The next story, wonderfully well told by our knows-the-territory-well-indeed author, introduces Peter Layton, a just-fired (drugs perchance?) longtime star of a popular children's TV show, who leaves New York to come to L.A. and start over and is instantly attracted to Greta. Then comes the title story which opens with...

"When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time but just weren't facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be. You will feel like you have been kicked in the stomach, that your insides have just separated to make room for something big.

"You may not cry at first. You may wonder why you don't cry, and you may even feel like there is something seriously wrong with you. You might look at yourself as though you were a character in a book or a movie and you might think to yourself 'Why isn't that woman crying? What's wrong with her?'"

Next we explore the new friendship between Betty, the lonely widow next door, and young Charlotte. After that, we spend a good bit of time delving into the inner Phillip with his shrink and, then later, with his brother. By the time we arrive at the last story--the "Can this marriage be saved?" story--we will have gotten to know this cast of characters very well indeed and have our own opinions on that subject.

I confess I bought this book partly because The Washington Post gave it a pretty good review, but mostly because "Samantha Baker" recently pulled me through a major mega-candles birthday of my own that somehow got forgotten and it seemed to me that buying her creator's book was the very least I could do in return. I was hoping for "not bad" but what I found was pretty terrific writing...great characterizations...and a believable novel brilliantly conceived in short story form that worked wonderfully well....and which I highly recommend!
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, heartbreaking, and lovely, August 15, 2012
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I absolutely loved these interconnected stories about a family and friends dealing with the complications of love and betrayal. The characters were incredibly realistic--it felt like I was peering over someone's shoulder, into their life (and heart). I especially liked the way each new story would switch perspectives and provide unexpected information and background on characters I'd already seen, moments of "Ohhhh, so THAT'S why." Despite the overall theme of betrayal--a husband to his wife, a mother to her child, a man to himself--I found the stories actually very uplifting, and I felt like there was a kind of forgiveness at play. But as with anything realistic, it's complicated, not an easy "Everything is okay now." A beautiful, moving, and incredibly compelling read.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, August 22, 2012
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I heard Molly Ringwald interviewed on NPR and was mildly interested in the book. But, as soon as I got my Kindle sample, I was hooked.

The format of this novel is refreshing - a series of intertwined short stories - and the reader is left not only enjoying the read but looking for the thread (a la Where's Waldo) at the same time. It's different and it works.

The characters draw the reader in - especially Greta - and allow us to understand what they are experiencing.

The story is realistic but far from boring.

I enjoyed every moment and look for more good works from Molly Ringwald.
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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great, not terrible., September 24, 2012
This review is from: When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories (Hardcover)
I bought this book because of all the glowing reviews on Amazon but after reading it, I can't agree. So here is an alternative point of view. The New York Times review characterized the book as "workshop fiction" and I have to agree. I thought Ms Ringwald spent too much time on the internal landscape of her characters, telling us who they were instead of allowing the action to show us who they were. There wasn't much tension in any of the stories, no "oh my god, what is this character going to do next?" I understand literary fiction focuses more on character rather than plot, but there still needs to be conflict for readers to stay engaged. I found there was a trying-too-hard quality to the writing that got a little tiresome at points. And also no humor or irony in the stories which made the stories feel heavy and oppressive at times. On the positive, I liked the structure, the way the stories intertwined and the subject matter. I just wished that each story was better written.

Lastly, I found a glaring error in the book. Ms. Ringwald essentially writes that her major character goes to an Ivy League school, Stanford. Stanford (while an excellent school) is NOT an Ivy League school. Anyone who attended one of the eight Ivy League schools on the east coast, or Stanford or even looked it up on Wikipedia would know that. I'm surprised this error was not caught by the numerous people who must have read earlier drafts prior to publication. Is this a huge deal? Probably not, but anything (like an error such as this) that takes the reader out of the narrative is not great.

I can't help but think if this book had been written by a non celebrity it would be receiving only a fraction of the attention it's getting now.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First- rate literary fiction, August 28, 2012
This review is from: When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories (Hardcover)
Who knew? Molly Ringwald, who can certainly act, can also certainly write very fine literary fiction. Each of these interconnecting stories uncover a successively more revealing layer of a family drifting apart, crashing, estranged, and tentatively exploring second chances. This book was a thirst-quencher for those of us who try to make sense of the world by examining human interaction in fiction. It's totally character-driven; and these characters feel very real.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, September 11, 2012
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small things (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
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It's true. I only ordered it 3 days ago and finished it this morning before work. Last night I fell asleep reading it, my kindle clattering to the floor. It was one of those books that I looked forward to coming home to, and was sad to finish.

I just thought it was so beautifully written. Stories that show the multi-layered rawness of human emotions, motivations, fears, desires ... are stories that draw me in. Molly's characters are so easy to identify with. So much of what she wrote about I've either experienced to some degree personally, or through others, or I anticipate I will experience one day. In fact, I feel like I already have - she's that good. And on the surface they sound typical (infidelity, infertility struggles) but the way they're told are just so subtly gorgeous in their simplicity, they rise brilliantly above the rest.

*** something to add a few days later ***

I bought her other, earlier book. Hoping it would have the same depth and reflective, insightful characterization. It didn't. I know it's a different style of book entirely, but I found myself paging through it with little interest. So, tip: if you buy her other book looking for the same quality of writing, you won't find it!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Celebrity Who Can Actually Write!, August 30, 2012
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This review is from: When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories (Hardcover)
I am a devoted hater of celebrity authors, who have come to completely dominate the publishing industry, but I make an exception for Ringwald, who has for years demonstrated her passion for good writing - beginning with the stir she caused a few years back when she began writing book reviews for the Hartford Courant. (I once did an interview with Ringwald and felt great pain when, limited by time, I had to get her to stop asking questions about my novels and get back to the musical she was performing in.) Though it occasionally shows signs of the American academic writing style - background digressions that interrupt the flow of the present action - When It Happens to You is a marvelous concept, in which the reader enters each story as if he were entering a party where he knows he's going to run into a familiar face, but does not know which one. She writes beautifully, and shows the capacity to give each character - even small ones - a chance to show what's really motivating them. The insights on family, divorce, and adultery are plentiful, and you will find yourself not wanting to put it down. When it Happens to You is the book I had always hoped Ringwald would write, and now I look forward to something even heftier down the road.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It Has Happened to Me..., October 16, 2012
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JAMIE L HARMON (SAN JOSE, CA, US) - See all my reviews
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Let me insert a caveat in my review: I am 55. If you are a younger person, what I have to say may not apply to you.

I listened to Ms. Ringwald on NPR, and found her engaging and pleasant. Michael Krasny, with whom she was speaking, is a hometown hero of mine, and a professor of Literature at UC Berkeley. He loved this book, and I respect him, so I decided to read it.

I found myself shaking my head and rolling my eyes almost immediately. Although Krasny lauded the book as "literary," I found the prose stilted and self-conscious, often pretentiously reaching for metaphor or "artful" turns of phrase. Further, although I read the book through, the stories were jangling, and though ostensibly interwoven, really shared no deep thematic or philosophic connection.

Few characters were three-dimensional or real: I liked Greta and Phillip, but they were shallow; their motivations seemed to spring from nowhere. The other principals, especially Charlotte, Oliver and Betty, were simply inauthentic. Ms. Ringwald simply could not find the voice of either children or the elderly. The consequence is that they seemed flat, undeveloped, and unrealistic. Other story lines with promise went nowhere, ending in some literary backwater from which the reader is excluded: e.g. Marina, Peter.

As an older adult, I have experienced nearly every major theme of this book in my own life: betrayal, ostracism, parental rejection, infertility. They're fascinating subjects, to be sure; rife with possibility and capable of being mined for brilliance. In fact, just before reading this book, I finished "The Kept Man" by Jami Ottenberg, also a younger writer, and was riveted by the depth of her treatment of some of these same topics. Ottenberg's writing is transcendant. She allows the reader to internalize her voice completely and become invested in the story. Ringwald...not so much.

To my mind, Ringwald is receiving more than her due in the reviews of this book simply by virtue of who she is. Look! The actress can do more than one thing at a time! Because the personalities she portrayed in the eighties in her work in film are iconic, I think many of her generation want her to be more than she is as a writer. I know I hung in there with this novel because I wanted her to redeem herself at some point. I would simply have put it aside had the author been unknown to me.

For me, the bottom line is that this young author is reaching for a gravitas she does not yet possess. Life beats the hell out of us, and you simply cannot feel it in this novel.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Molly Ringwald delivers a must-read that is evocative, emotional, and beautifully written, September 21, 2012
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The literary world is literally jam-packed with books "authored" by celebrities--actors, directors, musicians, socialites, even those famous for essentially doing nothing. Clearly, many of these celebrity so-called authors are able to sell their books to publishers because of their name only, because most of their books are poorly written. But for me, there have been some celebrity surprises over the years, including Steve Martin and Steve Earle.

After reading When It Happens to You, I can unequivocally say that Molly Ringwald belongs on the short list of extremely talented celebrity authors. While I'll admit I chose to read this book partially because of the good reviews it has been receiving and partially because I'm obsessed with the 80s, especially all things Brat Pack, Ringwald's story-telling ability was apparent to me almost immediately, and I found myself quickly drawn into the book. (I'm not in the slightest bit embarrassed to admit one of the next books I plan to read is Andrew McCarthy's new book. Don't judge.)

When It Happens to You is called "a novel in stories," and each story in the book is linked, with one character, Greta, at the epicenter. When the book begins, Greta and her husband, Phillip, are struggling with fertility issues and the effects the desire to have another baby are having on their relationship. Subsequent stories, which focus on Greta and Phillip, as well as peripheral characters whose lives interact with them, touch on the drama--and trauma--of relationships. I really felt Ringwald had a deft touch in creating her characters, and their dialogue seemed authentic, not artificial.

Each of the stories is long enough to give you a sense of what is happening, but not all of them end neatly, much like life itself. In "My Olivia," the mother of one of Greta and Phillip's daughter's classmates struggles with how much she should enable the wishes of her flamboyant, six-year-old son to be treated and dressed as a girl. "The Little One" features Greta's elderly next door neighbor, as she deals with life without her husband and her estranged relationship with her daughter, as well as the fickle, quixotic visits from Greta and Phillip's young daughter, Charlotte. In "Ursa Minor," an actor who had gained fame from appearing on a children's television show (until being hospitalized for "exhaustion") ponders his waning career as well as his twin sister's relationship with her French boyfriend. But the title story packs the strongest punch, as it focuses on how a woman processes her husband's infidelity.

I've said before that the mark of a good story is one in which I wonder what happened to the characters after it ended. And there were a number of stories in this book that left me wanting more. I hope this is the start of a long writing career for Molly Ringwald, because she has the talent and the creativity to succeed. Her use of language and her ability to evoke emotions through her story-telling was masterful in a number of places.

This is definitely a must read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When it Happens to You, September 10, 2012
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When It Happens to You is an intriguing read that kept me totally engrossed. The interconnecting stories are linked nicely from chapter to chapter and flow nicely while easily moving to another story. Characters are true and situations realistic. If you like the movie short-cuts, you will enjoy 'When it Happens to You'.
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When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories
When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald (Hardcover - August 14, 2012)
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